Compulsion (1959)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Courtroom Drama, Crime Drama, Film a Clef  |   Release Date - Apr 1, 1959 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 103 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
  • AllMovie Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Share on

Review by Brendon Hanley

The Leopold and Loeb trial of the 1920s captured the popular imagination of the American people for much of the 20th century. The sociopathic notion of two affluent young men committing murder just to prove they could get away with the crime has a nihilistic, modern feel to it, and in many ways it still influences the way we think about crime. It's no surprise, then, that the case has been the basis for three fine films: Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, Richard Fleischer's Compulsion and Tom Kalin's Swoon. Of the three, Compulsion is arguably the best, as it sticks closest to the facts of the case. Fleischer's emphasis is on the courtroom drama, and to that end, he's aided by the outstanding performances of Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman as the Leopold and Loeb-derived criminals and Orson Welles as their lawyer, modeled on Clarence Darrow. Welles' impassioned pleas to save the boys from the death penalty -- written by Richard Murphy, though the actor may have been responsible for much of his dialogue -- provide the film with some of its finest moments.